THE CONTAMINATION OF RIO RANCHO
By Eddie Paulsgrove USACE Regulatory Project Manager (Ret) and Rio Rancho Resident
Yes, Rio Rancho has been contaminated – at least twice! Data indicates that significant quantities of Radium-226 & 228, other Radionuclides, and Arsenic, have twice illicitly been transported from a remote location into our City – by the same companies – and so far, NMED and the City of Rio Rancho have failed to take actual enforcement actions.
In March 2018, 288 tons (51 truckloads according to NMED) of Arsenic-contaminated radioactive material was disposed in the WasteManagement Rio Rancho landfill. The people who brought the dangerous material simply described it as “salt”. The landfill, not being told the material’s true nature, first reportedly stockpiled the dangerous material on ground, potentially exposing the public and neighboring schools and homes to Radium and Arsenic via wind dispersal. It’s important to notethat both Radium and Arsenic have inhalation toxicity. NMED has suggested that the hauler and generator weren’taware of the dangerous Arsenic and Radium concentrations and so hasn’t initiated enforcement against them – data and documentation suggest otherwise, so NMED’s position is…confusing. NMED seems to have also misrepresented thematerial and its’ contamination. The City is content to do nothing.
Data don’t lie and facts are facts.
In August 2019, the same hauler and generator brought 6,000 gallons of Arsenic-contaminated radioactivewastewater into our City and disposed it into the City’s sewer system. The contaminated radioactive wastewater wasconveyed to Wastewater Treatment Facility #2, potentially exposing facility employees and the public. Again, NMEDstated that the hauler described the wastewater simply as “brine”. In Sept. 2019, NMED stated historical data indicated theRadium and Arsenic concentrations were “high” and that the facility and the City were not made aware of the dangerousconcentrations – sounds like a “Pattern and Practice”, right? NMED has stated that the disposal did not result in Statelaw violations. But, if you ask how NMED came to that conclusion (show their work), they say that their decision-makingisn’t subject to public review. Wait – what? How can NMED issue a final Agency decision on a Significant Issue ofSubstantial Public Interest and not allow the public to review their decision-making? Well, they can’t – not legally. Again,the City is content to do nothing. The EPA is supposedly conducting a Federal “Enforcement Review” of the disposal -we’ll see.
Data don’t lie and facts are facts. It appears that the hauler wasn’t licensed to haul 48 truckloads of contaminated radioactive material through our city streets or dispose contaminated radioactive wastewater in our sewer system. Itappears that the responsible parties knew or should have known what they were doing, and that NMED and the City shouldhold them accountable. To maintain public trust, NMED must conduct a public hearing to discuss these issues. Thatdoesn’t seem like much to ask, right? NMED has made blanket statements without providing analysis or data and seems tooppose accountability. We, as a community of taxpayers, must hold NMED and the City accountable and hopefully apublic Zoom hearing will do that.
Eddie Paulsgrove, USACE Regulatory Project Manager (Ret)